Practically Mindful: Looking at United Airlines' Epic Failure of Leadership

We all know what happened on a recent United Air flight when a physician was assaulted and dragged off an airplane for refusing to vacate his seat. It should have never happened. And I don't think it would have if United leadership was focused on their purported shared purpose.

My take below, along with four steps to making sure your company doesn't fall into the same trap.


How to make sure your organization doesn't experience a leadership failure like United:

1. Figure out your company's Why

Ask yourself why your organization exists. What is your grander vision and reason for being? Some call this a mission statement, vision or shared purpose. I call it your Why.

It's the reason people remain loyal employees and the reason your best customers keep coming back. And needs to inform every decision you and your team make. Mindful leaders are able to articulate this Why to every stakeholder -- employee, customer, shareholder, board member -- and use it to direct the company toward success.

If you don't have one, find one.

2. Figure out your personal Why and check its alignment with your company's

Each of us has our own unique reason for being. Our own gift for the world. That thing that gets us up every day. And we need to uncover it if we want to do our best work. A core piece of mindful leadership is gaining the self-awareness required to understand our personal Why.

Once you have your Why, check it against your company's. Are they in alignment? If not, in what ways to they differ? If you're CEO, you'll need to make adjustments or you won't be successful long-term. You'll burn out or change your strategy to try to make things fit.

Get things in alignment.

3. Write down How you live that Why in detail

Now it's time to take that vision down to the pavement. If you have a set of company values, list out how you and your employees actually live them out. What activities do you engage in and what do they look like? What do they not look like?

It's important to get detailed on this so that you can see where you're succeeding and failing. If one of your values is to live by your word and you fail regularly at that, something needs to be fixed. If you say you value continual learning and don't attend conferences yourself, you're not living that value. Your employees will stop believing what you say (and customers won't be very far behind).

Get detailed. How does this look?

4. Make a plan for sharing this Why with everyone in your organization.

If every employee can't tell you your Why and give specific examples of How it's exhibited, how do you think they'll perform during crunch time? Living your Why needs to become a daily practice for everyone (starting at the top).

Ask yourself how you can share your Why with your team, top to bottom. Even more, how can you empower them to share it with each other every day. How can you celebrate the people whose actions most reflect it.

Spread the word.